Hard to resist this one: The Best Retelling of the Jesus Story Isn't from Narnia or Harry Potter by Andrew Wilson. Re-telling of the Jesus story? Urantia Book readers know where that can be found, and it isn't in pop culture!
That said, we do recognize the value of pop culture as a means of telling the traditional Biblical story of death and redemption, such as in the Harry Potter books, or in CS Lewis' Narnia Chronicles. But the main point of this article is that the Old Testament has its own parallel version of this story, too - which is, by the way, something that I was not aware of. Nevertheless, many people still don't know that Jesus entire life and teachings have been beautifully restated in Part IV of The Urantia Book. We'll blog about this amazing gift to the world below, but here's that interesting OT version from the article:
"Take the story of Joseph, for instance. As we are introduced to him in Genesis 37, Joseph, like Jesus, is favored by his father, honored in front of his family, and given a vision of the whole of Israel worshiping him. This prompts jealousy and hatred from his brothers, who conspire to kill him, even as he comes to serve them. Reuben intercedes for him, as Pilate later will for Jesus, but Joseph is eventually thrown into a pit anyway and sold for pieces of silver through the mediation of Judah (whose name, in its Greek form, would be Judas). Blood is presented to Joseph's father—the blood of a goat, the animal which makes atonement in Leviticus.
The parallels continue in Genesis 39. After he avoids being murdered out of jealousy, Joseph finds safety in Egypt. As he grows older, all that he does prospers ..."
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There's more to this article, too. If you are a subscriber to Christianity Today you can read even more examples. We are not, but still, just this one example is interesting, in that it introduces the old story of atonement and sacrifice that became the cornerstone of Jesus' story, too. It may be easy to see after realizing the element of blood sacrifice that was prevalent in Scripture, that Jesus' story might be thought to contain the same elements, making his incarnation here a familiar and palatable story; a story that the peoples of those times were familiar with...in addition, the cult of Mithra had many similarities to Jesus' story, and it influenced Paul's Christianity greatly, as did other of the mystery cults of those days. Reading about these influences is an illluminating experience!
More than 2000 years have passed since Jesus walked this earth; over those many years, the search for a real understanding of the incarnation has been ongoing - an understanding of it's true purposes and its true meaning. A great church has arisen on the heels of Jesus death and resurrection - a church built around those facts alone - but now, in this 21st century after the Master walked among us, Chrisitanity is facing a challenge to its very existence as never before. Part of that challenge has to do with the fact that the institutionalized church has become so much a part of the culture in which it has grown; the original gospel of Jesus and the heavenly kingdom that he established has been submerged in favor of the gospel described above: the gospel of the risen Christ. The Urantia Book calls Christianity the gospel ABOUT Jesus, as opposed to the gospel OF Jesus.
How did this happen? What happened to Jesus original gospel?
From The Urantia Book:
194:4.4 What has happened to these men whom Jesus had ordained to go forth preaching the gospel of the kingdom, the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man? They have a new gospel; they are on fire with a new experience; they are filled with a new spiritual energy. Their message has suddenly shifted to the proclamation of the risen Christ: "Jesus of Nazareth, a man God approved by mighty works and wonders; him, being delivered up by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, you did crucify and slay. The things which God foreshadowed by the mouth of all the prophets, he thus fulfilled. This Jesus did God raise up. God has made him both Lord and Christ. Being, by the right hand of God, exalted and having received from the Father the promise of the spirit, he has poured forth this which you see and hear. Repent, that your sins may be blotted out; that the Father may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you, even Jesus, whom the heaven must receive until the times of the restoration of all things."
194:4.6 Christ was about to become the creed of the rapidly forming church. Jesus lives; he died for men; he gave the spirit; he is coming again. Jesus filled all their thoughts and determined all their new concepts of God and everything else. They were too much enthused over the new doctrine that "God is the Father of the Lord Jesus" to be concerned with the old message that "God is the loving Father of all men," even of every single individual. True, a marvelous manifestation of brotherly love and unexampled good will did spring up in these early communities of believers. But it was a fellowship of believers in Jesus, not a fellowship of brothers in the family kingdom of the Father in heaven. Their good will arose from the love born of the concept of Jesus' bestowal and not from the recognition of the brotherhood of mortal man. Nevertheless, they were filled with joy, and they lived such new and unique lives that all men were attracted to their teachings about Jesus. They made the great mistake of using the living and illustrative commentary on the gospel of the kingdom for that gospel, but even that represented the greatest religion mankind had ever known.
Read about The Beginnings of the Christian Church to understand more about what happened.
But Jesus did not leave us alone when he returned to Paradise; he sent his Spirit out to dwell in all people at Pentecost, and that Spirit of Truth has been very active all this time, too. That good Spirit really does help expose error and promote truth for individuals.
194:2.1 Jesus lived on earth and taught a gospel which redeemed man from the superstition that he was a child of the devil and elevated him to the dignity of a faith son of God. Jesus' message, as he preached it and lived it in his day, was an effective solvent for man's spiritual difficulties in that day of its statement. And now that he has personally left the world, he sends in his place his Spirit of Truth, who is designed to live in man and, for each new generation, to restate the Jesus message so that every new group of mortals to appear upon the face of the earth shall have a new and up-to-date version of the gospel, just such personal enlightenment and group guidance as will prove to be an effective solvent for man's ever-new and varied spiritual difficulties.
The Spirit of Truth has been active; people are not quite as willing today to believe in a wrathful god who strikes down an innocent child for the sins of other children. Mankind rightly questions traditional Biblical stories regarding a six-day creation, Adam and Eve, and other stories that do not pass the test of reason. People are more educated in the history of Christianity - the history of the Bible - the influence of human beings on the direction of the churches - the over-emphasis on the material needs of the church and its representatives. When the churches who assume to represent Jesus do not meet their needs, people still understand that Jesus, and only Jesus, CAN meet those needs - and they want to know him more, even outside the confines of any church.
People long to know Jesus; they long to connect with him on a deep level not readily offered by church attendence and adherence to dogma and theologies. At a deep level, we all know that there is much more to Jesus than we have known up 'til now.
The search is over
Into this search for the real Jesus - in the very midst of a tumultuous society undergoing tremendous change - the rise of global communication - the recognition of the paucity of reliable truth about religion and its meanings - comes The Urantia Book.
Stories that echo tales of wrathful deities, wrongly accused heroes, and miraculous victories over death have been part of humanity forever. It may have been a natural development to try and fit Jesus - the actual Son of God - into such a story, too. After all, it is hardly a common occurrence to have a divine being incarnate as a human being - in fact it does not happen but once in any given universe. Jesus' life was a stupendous occurrence to the peoples of his times, and that incarnation of the divine into the human is still resonationg in the hearts of people everywhere.
But, the real story of Jesus, while it may be somewhat reminiscent of some of the old stories, is a completely new and thrilling story that the world needs to know - the true story of the lowly carpenter of Nazareth who is also the divine Son of God; a story that tells the whole truth of who he was and why he came to us when he did.
Revelation is a divine gift
One purpose of revelation is to sift and illuminate truth for its recipients - to save many generations of searching - through revealing ennobling truth that they can use NOW. The Urantia Book is one such revelation - an epochal revelation. Leaving aside the many other revelations that we receive in its pages, the most exciting and uplifting of all of its revelation is the true life and teachings of Jesus.
At the very beginning of Part IV of The Urantia Book, we read the following statement, which informs us of a major source of the narrative (with helpful links supplied by ed.):
"This group of papers was sponsored by a commission of twelve Urantia midwayers acting under the supervision of a Melchizedek revelatory director. The basis of this narrative was supplied by a secondary midwayer who was onetime assigned to the superhuman watchcare of the Apostle Andrew."
In other words, this account is based on eyewitness testimony by the midwayer (angelic being) who accompanied Andrew during his life with the Master. And Andrew, as we know, was the first of the apostles and one who was present during the majority of Jesus' ministry.
The authors of The Urantia Book call this revelation of Jesus a "restatement." And in Paper 121, you can read the full explanation by one of those authors regarding the further origins of this restatement, both human and divine:
Read the Acknowledgment HERE.
This is an account which can be counted on; an account that has no connection to pop culture of this, or any other day; an account that has been checked for accuracy, then verified by the superhuman memories and records of the Master's real life.
An Exquisite Re-Telling
While going back into the Bible and finding parallel stories that echo Christianity's take on Jesus may be fun and interesting; while seeing these kinds of retellings in popular culture may be sentimental and sweet, why not go straight for the real deal that you'll find in Part IV of The Urantia Book?
Not only is it a great, easy read...it provides the reader with a valid blueprint for the greatest human life ever lived; a life that can be emulated in its essence - a pattern life lived in dedication to God and his will, and a life that also reveals God to mankind; this God that Jesus revealed in his life puts to rest any outworn depiction of the heavenly Father as a vengeful, frightening deity. And this is another truly wonderful gift that The Urantia Book gives to us. The religious life of Jesus and how he lived it constitutes the most valuable knowledge that can be had - and it can only be found in The Urantia Book.